Most people associate sprinkles with sweet treats and colorful desserts, but did you know that savory sprinkles are very popular, especially in Japan? Gomasio and furikake are two examples. They share many common elements but also have their own unique qualities.
These dry condiments are often placed right on the dinner table, just as we might arrange salt and pepper shakers to season at will. Shown above, furikake.
What are Gomasio and Furikake?
Gomasio is a simple blend of just two ingredients: sesame seeds and salt. It can be made with either white or black sesame seeds, but the flavor is largely the same. Think of it as seasoned salt that instead of being spicy, is nutty and rich.
Sometimes sugar might be included as filler but isn’t a traditional inclusion. Popularized by the macrobiotic diet, it has been almost considered a supplement due to the many vitamins and minerals found in sesame seeds.
Furikake may also include sesame seeds, but not always. This mixture is a more complex blend with a wider range of variations, leading primarily with the oceanic taste of seaweed. Whether powdered, flaked, or granulated, the added sea vegetable (kelp, kombu, nori, dulse, or laver) impart that unmistakable briny flavor that most people either love or dislike.
Additional flavorings possibilities are endless, including spicy versions featuring wasabi, chili flakes, or ginger, herbaceous options with shiso (“beefsteak plant,” aka perilla or Japanese mint) or mitsuba (Japanese parsley), and umami powerhouses with dried shiitake mushrooms or miso powder.
How to Buy and Store Gomasio and Furikake
If by chance you want to buy these seasonings readymade, as you might expect, the best source for authentic Japanese products would be Asian markets. Barring that, you may have some luck in the international aisle of a well-stocked supermarket, where they may be found near the sauces and vinegars.
Be very careful navigating the labels, however. Japanese ingredient labels don’t always call out top allergens like shellfish, eggs, and dairy, so you might be going in blind if it’s been translated poorly, or not even translated at all.
Most mainstream Japanese brands of furikake, especially, are NOT vegan, relying heavily on bonito flakes for added umami; that’s dried and aged tuna shavings, of course. This is something you’re most likely to encounter with furikake, as well as other undesirable additions like sardines, anchovies, and dried shrimp. All the more reason, then, to make your own.
When it comes to gomasio, it’s a much better story, since this savory shake is naturally vegan. Any brand, imported or domestic, should be perfectly suitable for plant-based diets. You’ll want to check labels not necessarily for ingredients, but for expiration dates.
The biggest problem for imports is that these might be in transit or sit on the shelf for a while, collecting dust and becoming rancid. Fresh is always best! To maintain that same fresh flavor from the first shake to the last, make sure you keep your condiments in airtight glass jars, away from bright light, and in a relatively cool place.
How to Make Your Own Gomasio and Furkikake
Your best bet for the highest quality, cleanest ingredients, and flavors tailor-made for your personal preferences is to start from scratch. Thankfully, that’s exceptionally easy for both seasoning sprinkles.
Gomasio barely needs a formal recipe; for a small batch, start with ½ cup of toasted sesame seeds and 2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt or Himalayan salt. For a hint of garlic, add abut 1/4 teaspoon garlic granules. Pulse together in a food processor or spice grinder until coarsely ground. It should have some texture left to it, rather than being reduced to a fine flour.
To toast raw sesame seeds: Place a medium skillet over medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Cook until golden brown all over, stirring frequently. Be very careful that they don’t burn, or they will become bitter. Let cool completely before grinding.
Furikake is more of a “choose your own adventure” sort of recipe, with parts that can be mixed, matched, or omitted as desired. Here’s a basic blueprint to guide you in building your personal taste sensation. For this recipe, we’re going with an easy, practical sea vegetable — toasted nori. For more info and ways to use this popular sea vegetable, see this site’s Guide to Nori — With 10 Recipes That Aren’t Sushi.
- 2 sheets toasted nori
- 2 to 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon shiitake mushroom powder, miso powder, and/or nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon ground dulse (optional)
- 1 tablespoon dried shiso or mistuba (optional)*
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or Himalayan salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, ground ginger, and/or wasabi powder (optional)
Roughly crumble or coarsely grind the nori into small flakes. Mix it together with the remaining ingredients until well combined.
(*shiso is also known as“beefsteak plant,” aka perilla or Japanese mint); mitsuba is Japanese parsley.)
Best Dishes to Serve with Gomasio and Furkikake
Many dishes that are falling a bit flat in the flavor department would benefit from a boost with a sprinkling of either gomasio or furikake! Although they do have a particular affinity for Asian foods, more adventurous eaters will be rewarded with even greater culinary creations with some creative fusion. Just a few easy ideas include:
Rice bowls: Buddha bowl, poke bowl, or just a meal of leftovers built upon a base of whole grains; all can benefit from an extra layer of richness and an extra touch of salt. Get some ideas in Beautiful Buddha Bowls You Can Make Without a Recipe.
Onigiri: Roll rice balls in furikake and you can skip the fussy nori covering. Alternately, mix furikake right into the rice, and then you can even sear them on the outside for crispy, hot yaki onigiri.
Sushi: Before you wrap your maki rolls, sprinkle a little of your favorite seasoning over the rice.
Noodles: Be it ramen or yaki soba, wheat or rice, all noodles can benefit from a little sesame sprinkle.
Popcorn: A sprinkling of gomasio or furikake works best over freshly popped popcorn that’s been lightly coated with coconut oil or cooking oil spray so that the seasonings adhere better.
Notable Nutrients in Gomasio and Furikake
Touted specifically to add missing nutrients back into the diets of macrobiotic adherents, gomasio is one of the tastiest ways to get your vitamins. Because it’s based on sesame seeds, it’s particularly high in magnesium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and iron, it’s everything that dairy products wish they were, and more! Learn more about these mighty little seeds in this site’s Guide to Sesame Seeds.
Furikake adds a powerful dose of iodine on top of everything that gomasio offers, thanks to the naturally mineral-rich seaweed. Iodine can otherwise be difficult to get without supplementation, and is an essential mineral. See more about why this is.
Please note that both gomasio and furikake are quite high in sodium. Treat them like a finishing salt to prevent overdoing it.
More Recipe Inspiration for Using Gomasio and Furikake
- Miso-Tahini Avocado Toast with Black Sesame Gomasio
- Soba Noodles with Fennel and Gomasio
- Seaweed Cucumber Gomasio Salad
- Garlicky Greens Pasta with Gomasio
- Fur Baby Furikake (Dog Food Topper)
- Japanese Furikake Edamame
- Healthier Furikake Chex Mix
- Furikake Oven Fries
Explore of this site’s Good Food Guides.
Contributed by Hannah Kaminsky: Hannah has developed an international following for her delicious recipes and mouthwatering food photography at the award-winning blog BitterSweet. Passionate about big flavors and simple techniques, she’s the author of Vegan Desserts, Vegan à la Mode, Easy as Vegan Pie, Real Food, Really Fast, Sweet Vegan Treats, The Student Vegan Cookbook, Super Vegan Scoops, and The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet Pan. Visit Hannah at BittersweetBlog.com.
All images: Bigstock